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Isherwood still shines,
This review is from: Down There on a Visit (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Down There On A Visit is a rare book in that it conveys a great deal while remaining unassuming on the surface. Isherwood's observations are always telling and there is something that stands out in every paragraph, yet it never interrupts the flow. The four stories this volume contains are linked by a narrator called Christopher Isherwood yet are fictionalised - to find out what really happened you have to read Christopher And His Kind. In fact I decided to reread this book, as I remembered it giving such pleasure a number of years ago, And my feeling now is the same. The narrative persona changes somewhat over the twenty years it covers, but in a subtle way, reflecting how one's attitudes to people and situations evolve over time. It also moves across different continents (from Berlin to Greece to London to California), yet seems admirably unified, even with the relative lack of plot. Each section carries the name of a character as a heading, with some recurrence, but in a very freewheeling, natural way. There's no scheme to the book, really, beyond a kind of homage to the people he knew at that time and an uncanny ability to get right to the heart of human character without any of the forensic approach of many modern novelists. His generosity comes across in an ever-flowing stream of words, always considered, never stinting in his empathy. In fact I was often made to feel how I might have been less patient than he was, particularly with Paul, and even Waldemar, who could appear simply out to exploit, but somehow emerge as much more worthwhile than that, even if there is an element of that too. It's a book to make you value human uniqueness more and strive for more benign detachment in your own life, which makes it a pretty moral book, without setting out to be one at all.